Doing Buddhism Or Being A Buddhist
Ven. David Xi-Ken Shi
I would like to think that the power of mindful meditation (zazen) offers us each a chance to still the mind, experience quiet, and listen, so we have a chance to hear the human spirit’s symphony. Meditation is a body-mind practice. After so many years of “cushion time” I have come to realize that it is a challenge to convey what can be achieved with a dedicated meditation practice to others that have either no experience, or an untrained effort to try meditation on their own. In the beginning the benefits of meditation are elusive. I know this because that was my experience too. It was not until I put my practice under the guidance of a qualified teacher that I began to experience change for myself. And I had a teacher to validate that experience. This is a key point. Let me hasten to say though that a sincere effort on one’s own is not without benefit. One can begin to experience changes in their perspective within a few months of effort, but having a teacher makes the process more productive. Very few Buddhist explorers find they can develop a sustained meditation practice because it requires a daily routine, and that is hard to do in our busy lives. We have a tendency to loose interest very quickly as a general rule. This is why meditation with others in a home-group, center, or temple, is a way to sustain our zazen. And meditation with others is different. Trust me on this.
A developed meditation practice is a key component to a successful engaged Buddhist practice. We also need to begin to realize that being engaged is changing from “doing Buddhism” to our “being Buddhist”. When we get out and work with others, we begin to become aware of how humanity is apart of that spiritual symphony know as interconnectiveness. Such awareness will deepen and mature, sparking the social, political, and economic transformation of the human family. This awareness on the moral level, in the existential requirement of each moment, is pure sensitivity. Being engaged is the opportunity for us to come face to face with situational ethics: awareness of how we come to know the moral and ethical nature of each situation comes from the direct impact of internalizing the lesson found in the Four Noble Truths. We make an impact one person and one situation at a time. The most common area of engagement is in the world of our individual communities. Small steps DO make a difference. If we can bring useful and positive tools to just one person that leads to real and sustained change, our efforts will result in untold good karma. This depth of sensitivity embraces all, it regards everyone and everything, as having a precious value and dignity. I believe that this awareness is what my bodhisattva vows challenges me to awaken to. It is to this awareness that all monks and laity alike should be dedicated to when we start “being Buddhist.” The first step may be the hardest, then momentum takes over, and before we know it we engage the dharma in 10,000 ways.
But for now, I am going to have a cup of tea.